Tag Archives: wisdom

Biology’s Mission

Biology has the fantastic capacity to self assemble an intricate orchestra of structures that “dance” in concert by the trillions in such a way as to both nourish and protect the whole community of relationships as a coherent whole. It does this amazing feat in the context of an environment that is partially nourishing and partially antagonistic.

The implied mission set forth by nature is that each biological organism must adaptively recognize and dynamically negotiate the acquisition of nourishment, apply that nourishment to a continual rebuilding process through strategically choreographed activities involving the processing and distribution of modified parts, while proportionally avoiding and-or dealing with antagonistic agents in order to remain coherent. This complex negotiation process is continual and shifts dynamically according to the changing demands of the environment.

Collections of interdependent relationships assemble into a self-sustaining coherent whole based on an economy of adaptive value. This economy of values is based on things that contribute to nourishing and or defending continuing coherency. There are many expressions of this adaptive value that come in many forms, from perception faculties like eyes and ears to perceive the environment, to hands and feet to move within it – to the tiny cilia that wisp mucus and dust away from the lungs to protect them, find nourishment. Nested systems aligned around this theme of “perceive and respond” to “nourish and defend” the community can be seen on many scales.

Nested layers of relationship are seated within each and among others, like the many ripples in a pond – intersecting and influencing each other – also like turbulent circular patterns that emerge as coherent expressions in the wake of dynamic fluid flows under pressure. We express a coordinated sophistication that is centered on a singular goal: To nourish and protect the community of relationships in the context of an environment that would dissipate that coherence. This “nourish and protect” goal is meaningfully expressed through the many biological relationship chains and the corresponding behaviors that demonstrate a behavioral pull in this goal-oriented direction.

What we see as order and organization comes from the constellation of relationship behaviors that are born of an inherent value proposition embedded throughout the fabric of nature.

Nature in effect “calls” coherent structures into higher states of order by inherently “valuing” or “selecting” only those relationship behaviors that contribute to coherency over time. The more a behavior, or string of interconnected behaviors contributes to coherency, the more likely it will be incorporated and repeated in a renewal process. This is the essence of what we call natural selection.

Selection itself implies that nature values some things over others. The fact that one relationship structure exists over another one is an expression of this underlying value structure. Of all the things that exist, only those that serve the purpose of nourishing and defending coherency remain. Nature values coherency over decoherence but also demands specific behaviors in service of this coherency over time.

As our capacity for self-awareness awakens, we find ourselves living expressions of this adaptive wonder. When we make the effort to look into the sophisticated processes that conspire to keep us moving forward in time, the level of sophistication can appear astounding. If we transcend the many scales of self-similarity we begin to see themes. Repeating patterns in the process are expressed in many forms. We see the coordinated community of relationship bonds aligned around the utility of continuing existence. We see rhymes and a certain dissonance, a certain pattern infused with some novelty, that is both aligned around the goal. We must maintain the pattern but have enough novelty to deal with the unexpected, and this blend forms the adaptive range with which we negotiate the environment over time. If the environment overwhelms that combination of self-similar and novel adaptive capacities, we lose coherence and go extinct. We watch as biology pays the existential debt required to go forward in time through an environment that sometimes reluctantly provides fruit, or looks for weaknesses to devour the community that it also gave rise to.

The further we peer into the intricacies of this relationship landscape that is biology, and the environment in which it is continually baptized, the more profound and informed we see its capacity to stitch together responses that adaptively negotiate the chaos, continuously calling it to order and making the occasional discovery that adds to the adaptive repertoire. We see this capacity to dynamically call chaos to order expressed through the relational connections between the various organic structures that serve this ongoing concern – to nourish and protect, humming away in an orchestrated song emerging against a cacophony of chaos. Order from chaos. Awareness from sleep.

At the smallest of scales examples like; motor proteins, which are molecular motors inside cells that are able to carry protein cargo along a tubular highway network called microtubules and deliver them to their appropriate destination, or, in the case of a particular variety called myosin, these motor proteins can work in concert with millions of other like motor proteins to do things like contract muscles. Here’s a video detailing in story form, a small glimpse into the fantastic world that is biology. Enjoy!:

Cell Organelles 2 Cytoskeleton

A Day in the Life of a Motor Protein

Image

A Garden of Living Fire

Embedded in our physical structure as well as our nature is the necessity to consume in order to sustain our coherence – we hunger and grow our presence as long as the environment sustains the process. This fire aspect of being is embedded in our myths as well with consuming food and things like hell, suffering and so as important parts of how we map our concept of the world. We also act out this primal pattern in many ways, both constructively and destructively; sometimes consuming each other for the sake of some elevated stature, sometimes sacrificing ourselves for the sake of the larger body we live in and depend on. We are a community of living fire. The question of our future prospects depends on whether we tend the necessities to continue to nourish the fire that sustains and strengthens us or do we consume that necessity to the point of our own consumption?

Bacteria, Like All Organisms, Form Social Networks

Interestingly, bacterial communities’ (called biofilms) and the communication networks that coordinate their actions as a group body (called quorum sensing) have a human social analog. The form and function we know of as human sociality have roots deep within the relationship economy of biology itself. The deeper we dig, the more it appears that what we experience as life is built on a nested architecture of self-similar communication networks.

Bacterial communication and group behavior

“…The past decade has seen the emergence of a new field in basic microbiology… Scientists had long held the view that bacterial cells behaved as self-sufficient individuals, unable to organize themselves into groups or communicate… The idea that bacteria could function as groups and that individuals within the group could respond to the group as a whole seemed almost ludicrous… [It is] now… generally accepted that bacteria produce, and respond as groups… This phenomenon has become known as quorum sensing.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC228476/

From Existence To Significance

Life A limited Time Offer

My guess would be most of us either get swallowed by the circumstances we’re bathed in through the collective effects of our developmental environment, finding some reactive equilibrium with that happenstantial field of influences that define our initial form, or we wake up from that opaque mist to recognize that we also have a voice in the field of influences that defines our experience. We may discover that if we work intentionally, effectively and proportionally, that our voice might cultivate something significant rather than merely reflective – something that does more than reflect the defining qualities of the environment, but also plays a role in defining.

Cultivating something significant often requires disciplined effort and patience to shepherd nascent forms to fruition where they produce emergent properties, but the cost of doing so can render an effective player in the field of relationships that defines what we experience, and perhaps emergent properties that will pay continual constructive dividends. Nature clearly communicates that we can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples in a seed if that seed is cultivated – nourished and protected through development to its mature state of fruition. This cultivation aspect of being might be the “why” we are here, but it is more certainly the big “if” in terms of whether or not we realize the opportunities that are presented out of the cauldron of relationships that define us.

We can make the transition from that which has been defined by circumstance, to that which also plays a role in defining circumstances, but only if we first recognize, then take the proportional actions to overcome the things that would otherwise turn our presence into a neutral mush carried on the currents of environmental whim, or worse, to become an agent of reflected destruction. Some of the common stories that emerge from the field of defining relationships that we’re both baptized in and have some measure of ability to participate in include environments that falsely convey we have no significance – that our voice is of no effect and that we are solely the victims of an authoritarian fate, or perhaps an environment that has so shocked us with a series of capricious horrors and injustices that it causes us to see reality through a distorted lens which renders an image of tragedy and misfortune that is inevitable and that total occupation with self defense and protection are of paramount importance, or perhaps our social environment coupled with our innate capacity for vision has revealed to us the tragic and arguably insane failure of the collective social economy that powerfully defines our experience to sufficiently recognize, value and express the behaviors that nourish our mature potential – a maturity which is only possible in a climate of sustained mutually nourishing and protective developmental behaviors aimed at serving each other’s common interest. The fields of opportunity that we leave fallow can make us the authors of our poverty, and in that poverty we can get stuck in a vortex of self reinforcing destruction making our circumstance worse by filtering the world through a lens of dominance. One where it appears to make sense to force compliance from each other with the aim of getting the most we can get, rather than searching for and cultivating commitment between each other to gain what is rendered by the emergent fruit of community. We can either be caught spinning in a turbulent eddy of malignant selfishness that takes us in vicious circles that go nowhere, or we can tend to the fruits that are produced through committed cooperation with and cultivation of each other, and the extended body of life we depend on.

In the light of the necessities to effectively steer with intention through the currents that define us – to participate in where the currents carry us – we would do well to search for what it takes to cultivate that which is most significant to that end – that which has the most effect to tame and intentionally direct the environmental waters that define our experience. We can only realize the strength of that steering activity by both finding and actively participating in the relationships that forge meaningful significance while also mitigating the antagonistic forces that could interfere of interrupt that process. Because we so often start with a lens that was forged in a blend of complacency and trauma, we may not be equipped to see clearly what our best way forward is. Once our lens is refined to see with enough depth to understand where our opportunities are sourced, we can then see our progress is built on a complex and nuanced vision where consequences are not immediately connected in time through a linear process, but are displaced in time, and that development to maturity requires sacrifice in order to bear the eventual fruit.

Our best way forward is not visible using a simplistic, linear and narrowly temporal lens. Although simplistic lenses that do not consider, much less prioritize, the necessities of development over time are what we begin with in our ignorance and also what we gravitate to in times of perceived stress, they are not what serves as an accurate map to our most mature state of being. The effects of past traumas etched in our collective psyche can become a self perpetuating eddy that results in why we sometimes operate on a cultural level with a simplistic lens that seems to infer that serving the self to the exclusion of the community is the obvious choice; and it is in the short run, even though it is ultimately self defeating when the more complex tapestry of relationships that develop over time and space is considered. Our traumas and the resulting myopia may also explain why many of the superficial rituals of social recognition we currently chase and build our dedicated behavioral monuments to are also less connected to significance than they are to a self referential service of themselves – to the status quo – of serving our more immediate gratifications in a bonfire of vanities, or, as William Shakespeare’s character Macbeth so eloquently put about the net result of certain lives:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

As a result of recognizing that the road we currently travel most is a recipe for complacency at best and at worst one peppered with self indulgent distractions that lead us in directionless circles, we might be compelled by that dour vision to take the road less traveled. The unbeaten path does require that we brave the dangers of the unknown and or dedicate ourselves to the disciplines that are valuable yet may be unappreciated, or even detested and actively resisted. But this is what we must undertake for the opportunities that are only harvested by way of that path to be rendered. It is only by way of this more difficult organized effort that we can have a chance to realize and get the chance to embody significance – to make our lives meaningfully matter in a sea of what would otherwise be mere existence.

As a result of seeing the stagnating effect of what is rendered by actions taken on the heels of a shallow vision that looks no deeper than serving the brief periods of satisfaction of our baser drives, we might be inclined to focus instead on the things that do not necessarily tilt toward service of these superficial passions alone, but dig deeper to see something more difficult, more significant. With a full spectrum vision we can become like the parent that is compelled by that deeper vision to act with determination on behalf of a child’s development, sometimes in the context of the myopic protests of that same child. This deeper commitment is forged by a deeper vision. A vision that sees our common child as the extended community of relationships we live in and depend on for nourishment and protection, that defines our being and our experience, and that we also derive our significance from by serving something of nourishing and or protective value in the context of that community.

I may be missing something(s)

Lost in our own Little Words

As a species we differ widely in our the use of abstract tools in our framing of reality. There are many different narratives, but as far as I can tell, the common property is an attempt to pull the message (the subject) from reality (the object). The localized “subjects” we derive from objective reality varies considerably from culture to culture and person to person, but the “objective frame” we all derive that variable abstract framing from does has global properties that apply to all of us. These common ground messages are what the variation comes from, the same way all written words, that also can vary infinitely, come from a narrow set of symbols.

To illustrate this foundational communication: Reality demands a certain level of commitment on our part to specific activities in order to sustain us as coherent entities. Things like; stay away from cliffs unless we want to suffer the gravity of the situation, breathe appropriately to the situation – make sure to produce and distribute a sufficient amount of food to stay nourished as an individual or community and or gather enough to stay nourished – care for the young and teach them to identify and cultivate the nourishing opportunities as well as navigate and or contend with the hazards reality presents. Do these and many more things, or die out. In other words; we are governed by a common reality that requires we either negotiate the context of nourishing and antagonistic elements it presents to remain coherent, or suffer the consequence. From another point of view it could be said; we must pay homage to reality if we want to derive a satisfying experience from it. Also, our nature is reflective of the broader nature that both generates and sustains our being as well as governs it. Our state of being is composed of interdependent relationship systems that both serve, and require service to and from each other, and we are satisfied when we operate in service to establishing and maintaining equilibrium with this complex set of hungers for specific relationships on many levels.

We are also a voice in the choir so to speak. We can have a measure of influence in shaping what we experience as being. The more clearly we can tell the difference between opportunity and danger, the difference between constructive and destructive, and the more faithfully we are disciplined to contend with that mixed environment, the stronger our voice in this common choir. Nature clearly states that if we sacrifice appropriately, and cultivate sufficiently while contending effectively with antagonists, we can produce fruitful results that pay far more dividends when compared to the sacrifices they cost to cultivate.

Reality conveys that we can count the seeds in an apple, but counting the apples in a seed is not as clear or easy when those seeds are cultivated properly. With this in mind, I do think there are abstract realities within our shared field of vision that are closer to our common source – that common source being what is conveyed through objective reality. We can embrace these realities, and leverage the opportunities available to us, or we can reject or ignore them, but the result in that case is we twist in the capricious winds of circumstance without a rudder or sail.

To illustrate how we convert our perception of what is communicated through reality to words, often encapsulated in texts considered sacred, we can look at this passage in the Bible in Psalm 19:1-4, which says;

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (NIV)

If we translate the common message communicated through reality into words more pragmatically: We live in an “almighty” reality that both created and conditionally nurtures us – that sets forth requirements (commandments) that must be met for us to minimally survive and or flourish depending on how obedient and committed we are to the proposed relationship between us and that greater power – a greater power that acts consistently and faithfully in context – from which we are born and to which we are recalled. These grander narratives we all share are commingled with the more localized aspects of stories from our environment are often caught in word form and recorded in texts as well. “don’t eat pigs in a desert because they compete for the same food you do.” or “Don’t kill the cows because of how much they give and because you will have nothing to plow the fields next year”. The grander narratives globally shared are mingled with the more localized aspects of stories, and we then see things like this woven into the fabric of stories in the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, Quran and the Tao Te Ching and so on. These various abstract nets in which we capture our perception of reality captured what we need (or once needed) to know in order to understand and navigate reality. We put reality in a story matrix, along with many other things of greater or lessor use, as a translation into words of the guide already being communicated through the structure of reality. The same way DNA encodes the information to reconstruct the proteins we need to continually nourish our cells and organs, sacred stories, which eventually became scriptures, act as cultural DNA.

As far as I can tell, there is variation in the way we tell the story, but there is also a common theme on which all stories are based. There is our local abstract lens through which we frame reality, but there is also a common theme spoken through that reality as well. It is our relationship with reality that defines our experience of life. This common womb we share is our common ground as far as I can tell.

My guess is the morals thing we obsess over is the supposition that these things are necessary navigation aids that assisted us in remaining coherent at least at some point in time. They are like the froth on the surface of a deeper need to connect abstractly with the concrete, which is paradoxically fluid.

I could be missing something(s)

Is there such a thing as a metaphorical truth?

 

A couple thoughts on this: Is it necessary for a story to be literally true in order for it to be a legitimate source with which to govern our lives? Is there such a thing as a metaphorical truth?

While many an argument grows from whether or not a traditional story is literally true or not, there is also another aspect of stories in general that sometimes gets ignored in heat of the battle over the authenticity of this class of stories. This conflation of authenticity, credibility and usefulness as equal partners distorts our perspective of ourselves. Those are malleable factors that shift emphasis depending on what context they are applied to.

While some of us elevate certain traditional texts to the status of sacred and or literal, whether or not a story or stories are true does not take away from the fact that we humans believe in many stories that are only true by virtue of our faith in them. Money, law, human rights, government and various institutions like businesses are all stories, and our belief in them powerfully influences our experience. Whether we like it or not, they are, in a sense, reified by faith.

If we were to dissect a human, or the whole cosmos for that matter, we would never find a “human right”, or a “law” or a “corporation”. We would also not be able to find our past, the episodic stories we use to define our identity, and yet, these stories, like the reading of a Harry Potter novel, or the reading a scripture like the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible or Zoroastrian Texts have the capacity to frame our perception and steer our lives by virtue of how we use them as a currency for action – and that is the real power of the story – no matter whether we believe in their literal or metaphorical truth.

I could be missing something(s)

The Art of Communication Has A Long Tradition

Collections of cells working together as a unified body, producing specialized behaviors that lend adaptive advantage on a group scale which include some sacrificial acts that benefit that larger community is not unique to complex multicellular organisms like ourselves. It is more of a relationship theme that that has been threaded into biology long before multicellularity as we know it emerged. It involves perceiving necessities, and communicating these necessities across a biological domain so that effective behavioral responses can take place. This community principle, complete with communication across a wide biological landscape has been present, and conserved throughout our biological history – a unified purpose among different biological entities that arose out of necessity long before multicellular (metazoic) creatures emerged. Here is an example of how this takes place among microbes:

How Microbes Communicate Over Long Distances

“…Percolation is familiar to anyone who brews coffee, and it helped researchers at the University of California San Diego understand how bacteria communicate with one another over long distances. Communities of bacteria, sometimes called biofilms, aren’t just a clump of bacterial cells. It seems they can send signals to one another with ion channels, promoting the survival of the community and protecting it from attacks. New findings on that communication have been reported in Cell Systems.”

 

Link to full article:

https://www.labroots.com/trending/microbiology/12216/microbes-communicate-distance

We’re in this Life Together

Like so much of the choreographed biological relational dance that defines our own being – this place in the cosmos that we have only just begun to capture in our meager abstract net of words – the monarch butterfly lives a life of connectivity to itself and nature that steps far beyond it’s own capacity to grasp. When we witness this spectacle of the monarch life cycles, we can only marvel on the sidelines and partly describe the processes as one of nature’s mundane acts of profound expression unfolds before us. Like us, the monarch butterfly cannot sufficiently explain the intricate depths of its own being, and yet it is somehow aware at some level how to navigate the environment that would swallow it if it did not press back proportionally with an effective strategy to negotiate the perils. The monarch cannot explain why it eats what it eats, why it is equipped the way it is, or breeds successive generations, each with specialized roles and specialized understanding, geared to migrate a partial leg of a journey that spans a number of monarch lifetimes and thousands of miles through a myriad of environmental variables and challenges. It cannot explain the depths of its own genius – to act as a singular cohesive unit in the face of variable challenges with a collective body that spans lifetimes and acts in unison to preserve the species as a whole.

The Monarch butterfly carves out its cycle of life in part through a 2500 mile journey every year over four specialized generations of travelers, each lifespan lasting 2 to 6 weeks, except for those that wait through the winter to make the journey again. Like the monarch, we also temporarily carry the torch for a larger body of life that continues beyond our individual lifespan; we play roles in this larger scheme that we may not completely understand. The degree to which we can make sense of this journey we are on is perhaps rooted in the theme that is expressed through all biological forms; that the mark we make, like ripples in this common pond in which we all swim, get carried forward in time depending on how much value they contribute to this common body of live from which we all spring and the extended journey we’re all on. While the significance of our lives exists mostly beyond our field of vision, we can see that what we are is seated on the continuing nourishment and protection of this delicate economy of mutually nourishing and protective relationships that define us as a coherent and continuing form.

An Incredible Journey: The Monarch Butterfly Migration

https://www.isfoundation.com/news/incredible-journey-monarch-butterfly-migration

In-Groups and Out-Groups: A Biological Perspective

There is a certain fungus that is able to control certain ants to serve as a vehicle to further its own reproductive ends. The ant, in this case, dies in service of reproducing the fungus. There is also the case of the bacterial parasite T. Gondii which edits rodent brains to be attracted to felines so they get eaten, which helps the bacteria to enter its spawning grounds, which is in a feline gut. (it also edits other mammal brains in different ways) There are numerous cases of parasites and viruses that have the capacity to influence other organisms in service of their specific ends. It could be said that this is the norm in nature – competing influences that ultimately result in emergent behaviors that we typically identify as belonging to “an organism” but are in fact based on the collective property of many organisms.

When we consider that we are also a collection of various organisms that are influenced by each other, each with various agendas and various means of carrying that agenda out, we can begin to see that what we call our choices, and what we think of as our identity, may in fact be a byproduct of the parliamentary constellation of influences that rises from the pool of biological organisms that define us. We may be a reflection of the relationship field from which we are composed which extends beyond human genetics.

A recognition of this, at least from the parasitic sense, there is a now “theory” on the block called ; “The parasite-stress theory” which sees our personal and cultural identities through the lens of the parasitic creatures that influence us to service their various needs. In some real respects, it posits that our cultures in large part are an emergent property of the parasitic microbes that influence our behaviors.

The evidence for this idea is the strong correlation between the strength of parasites in the relationship field of the people in a given culture and their relative state of peace or conflict in addition to whether or not the culture is conformist or individualistic etc. In other words, what we see as culture may be a mirror effect of the relationship field between organisms.

According to this video; the parasite-stress theory may be a general theory of culture and sociality. In a nutshell it acknowledges the fact that the various strategies organisms have to influence other organisms to serve its purposes do have a role in defining this thing we call us. My thought is that it would be a more accurate lens if it looked at the full spectrum of organisms, some of which are on the mutually beneficial range of influence – commensal organisms having a stake in the success of the community it depends on – and doing what they can to offer benefits such as stability, defense, long life and so on. In other words, I think this theory is on to something, but is not yet complete. If we factored in the full spectrum of influences, (rather than just the parasitic segment) we would be able to understand that our opportunity for cultivating an intentional experience of life, rather than riding ignorantly on the winds of biological chance, is rooted in whether or not we intentionally tend the biological relationship field of which we are, on which we depend and that defines this thing we call “us” to be inclined toward the commensal, mutually beneficial segment of the spectrum of relationships.

The Biological Community Defines Our Experience of Life

If we unpack the implications of the fact that a single celled parasite like Toxoplasma gondii can develop a strategy to modify mammalian neurophysiology and behaviors to suit its own biological ends, we can begin to appreciate the fact that the community of friends and foes in our local biological relationship field set the tone for what we experience as life.

There is a full spectrum of relationships that is possible in any given biological community that can span the spectrum from obligate (necessary) mutualism to parasitic and predatory relationship dynamics where seizing the fruit produced by other organisms is the core behavioral property of the organism.

Depending on the biological community’s bias toward cooperation involving mutual nourishment and common defense, or toward parasitic and predatory relational dynamics, the organism based community will tend toward homeostasis (balance), or instability. This makes whether or not we learn about, and act to appropriately tend the many organisms from which our local biology is composed is a key factor in whether balance or imbalance (health or disease) will happen. It also plays a key role in defining our identity and shaping experience of life. This makes understanding and cultivating the biological relational system we are part of a critical factor in effectively steering our experience of life.

Here is an article outlining how a number of parasitic and predatory organisms press their agenda within the larger biological community. It is important to remember that there is a full spectrum of relationship possibilities, some of which bring nourishment, strength and health or defense of the integrity of the system against disruptive agents.

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/31536/title/Animal-Mind-Control/